chicagoblackhawks.com's Adam Kempenaar addresses your burning Blackhawks questions. Check back for more Hawks Insider answers as the 2008-09 season approaches. Submit a question here.
At the end of last season we had a few games where guys were taking cheap shots at our stars. It seemed that we were going to acquire an enforcer, but we still have not. Is there a chance of landing someone to fill that role, or is there someone within our system who can step up and protect our young guys? -- David Weisman, Buffalo Grove, IL
AK: Ah, you know training camp is right around the corner when the enforcer question starts popping up. Of course you are right, David, protecting your stars is crucial. But how many true enforcers are there in the National Hockey League? Guys who bring the ability to fight but can also skate and aren't liabilities on defense? I don't think you'll find many who fit the bill (and are readily available).
The Hawks brought Matt Walker (6-3, 213) over from St. Louis as a free agent this off-season to add toughness. Ben Eager (6-3, 225), who led the NHL in penalty minutes with 233 back in 2006-07 with Philadelphia, is healthy and figures to play a prominent role. Throw in Adam Burish's 214 penalty minutes and James Wisniewski's gritty style of play once he returns from injury and the Blackhawks should be able to protect themselves just fine.
At some point in the near future recent high draft picks Kyle Beach and Akim Aliu will step into the lineup. You can count on them to stand up for themselves and linemates while also flashing skill and contributing offensively. As far as a traditional enforcer, it will be interesting to see how 2007 6th round pick Richard Greenop (6-4, 230) progresses in the Ontario Hockey League. He had 194 penalty minutes in 60 games with Windsor last season and as anyone who attended Prospects Camp in July can attest, he's an imposing presence on the ice.
Who are we gonna have as our third and fourth line centers, and do you think that [Dave] Bolland can be a number one center? -- Joseph Daniel, Chicago
Joseph, as it stacks up right now I project Jonathan Toews and Robert Lang to center the top two lines with Adam Burish centering the 4th line. That 3rd line center battle is going to be one of the most intriguing competitions to watch at training camp. Bolland is definitely an early favorite for the job after playing in 39 games with the Hawks last season. Denis Savard has been vocal in his praise for the versatile Bolland, who plays a solid two-way game in addition to being a talented playmaker and scorer. Realistically, he probably projects better as a 2nd line center someday than a 1st, but his greatest asset is that he can be used in a variety of roles and situations.
Keep an eye though on Petri Kontiola. He got a year of North American hockey under his belt last season in Rockford, where he was second on the team in both points and assists (18-50-68) in 66 games. He also led the team in plus/minus (+17) and may have the best hands and passing ability of anybody in the Blackhawks' farm system. He played 12 games in Chicago last season and will surely contend for a spot at center.